An open letter to Pop

[Author’s note: This column also appeared in today’s San Antonio Express-News.]

Dear Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs,

I love sports. I love basketball. I love coaching. I love character more.

As hard as the Heat defeat was, I prefer it to this alternative: Winning without character. More than winning, I want to support teams my sons can look up to. You have delivered both in your years at the helm of the San Antonio Spurs. Thank you.

I hate to lose. I hate missed free throws. I hate turnovers late in games. I hate stars who don’t treat their stardom judiciously. Notables who lord their notoriety over us or, worse yet, embarrass us all with their bizarreness. Celebrities hardly worth celebrating.

But you understand that life is bigger than pro sports, spotlights and fame.

It’s why you don’t say much to the on-court reporter between quarters. It’s why you did speak to the thousand fans gathered at the airport to welcome home a losing team. Your measuring stick of success is different than most, and not completely dependent on wins and losses in a kids’ game.

Pop is an appropriate nickname for you. Seeing you and Tim or Tony relaxing on the bench at halftime is like watching a father and son chilling on the couch. We can see a relationship that is, again, bigger than basketball. More about life after temporary moments of glory.

The irony, of course, is that your teams’ moments of glory have been quite regular. Sixteen straight playoff appearances. Eight Western Conference Finals. Five NBA Finals. Four NBA titles. It’s a story of consistency and loyalty not often published in the age of free agency and super-markets.

Speaking of supermarkets, I bet Miami’s “Big 3” didn’t advertise for their local grocer as you and your Big 3 did for H-E-B. And I bet your Big 3 did so, in part, because of your down-to-earthness. Any athlete can endorse Gatorade. It takes something special to market private label salsa.

Your guys have always had something special. The Admiral, for instance. But you helped elevate him to a championship level. Tim was talented coming in. But you’ve helped him stay competitive long after the critics insisted was possible.

Without you, Tony’s prima donna instincts may have led him astray. Manu would still be whining to the refs as Lebron does. And what a joy to watch Kawhi and Danny and Gary come into their own under your leadership.

We Spurs fans didn’t sleep well during the last week of the Finals. The losses hurt — especially, perhaps, because our Spurs are the only game in town. Plus, it feels like the end of an era, like there won’t be a next year, with this group, at this level.

But you made it easier. The way you smiled when it was over. The way you hugged Lebron like he was your own. You weren’t being disloyal. You were simply saying relationships are more valuable than winning — or losing — even at the highest level. That’s a message we all need to hear.


Kevin Thompson is a weekly columnist for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at

10 Responses to “An open letter to Pop”

  1. 1 Nancy B. Abbott July 2, 2013 at 18:47

    This was a superb article, Kevin! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Thank you for representing the Spurs and Pop in such an outstanding way. Nancy Abbott

  2. 2 Steven h July 2, 2013 at 19:56

    Excellent article Kevin. I believe you hit the nail on the head in regards to how most San Antonion’ s or Boerne residents feel about our team . I could’t have said it any better.

  3. 3 Brandi Egli July 3, 2013 at 00:05

    Amazing! And so true. I hope Pop gets to read this. He needs to know he is appreciated. I would take a gamble and say that what you wrote is how most (maybe all) Spurs fans feel about him. So cool that you are my friend. You rock, Kevin Thomson. And your wife rocks even more (no offense, but I love her so).

  4. 4 Grant Rampy July 3, 2013 at 13:07

    Another winner. Have you ever thought to share your columns with Michael Hyatt ? Though I haven’t followed him in the past few months, I know he occasionally welcomes guest material, and he has a *huge* following. Would love to see you get more exposure.


    Grant Rampy | Director of Public Relations* Abilene Christian University | University Marketing 218 Zellner Hall | ACU Box 29010 | Abilene, TX 79699 (ofc) 325.674.2692 | (cell) 325.660.8690

    *Read about ACU *

    *Watch our Wildcat Video Minute * *for June*


    On Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 5:37 PM, Kevin Thomps

  5. 5 Deborah Meador July 3, 2013 at 15:52

    I hope Pop gets to read this. Character ALWAYS matters.

  6. 6 Don Campbell July 4, 2013 at 07:26

    Another excellent writing of a devoted mentor by a skilled author! God has blessed you with an ability to move and stir inner longings.

  7. 7 Dan Liberto July 6, 2013 at 16:01

    So may times I’ve had similar thoughts of the Spurs and their leadership. Thanks for speaking for the many and with so much eloquence. Your articles are a pleasure to read and they convict us to strive for a better place.

  8. 8 Bennye Waskom July 8, 2013 at 12:45

    Kevin, This has to be one of your very best! My sentiments exactly. Classiest team in the NBA with the classiest Coach. Bennye

  9. 9 jessestroup July 15, 2013 at 14:16

    Another very good one.  I am reading your your high school coach’s book that your parents gave to me.  I have already cried through the end of one chapter.  No telling what the people around me on the plan thought.  It doesn’t take much to tip me over with a good small town high school basketball story;  the player drowned and it tore the whole town up.  Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 2777 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 1020 Dallas, TX 75207 214-678-0303


  1. 1 What a difference a year makes | Kevin Thompson Trackback on June 27, 2014 at 00:07
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